By Kristen Johnson, Multimedia Journalist/ Weekend Anchor - bio | email
DAKOTA DUNES, S.D. (KTIV) -
Dick Herman has traveled on Air Force One, considers past presidents friends, and has been witness to more history than you can fit in a textbook. A walk through the hallways in of his Dakota Dunes, South Dakota home is like a trip back in time.
"I attended my first national convention in 1956."
Reagan, Bush, Ford, he's worked with them and for them.
At first he was,"... answering the telephone, and that was it," recalled Herman.
He was bitten by the political bug. At 36-years-old, Herman took charge of writing the nominee speech for Barry Goldwater.
"Barry did not want to be nominated for president. He tried to get out of it," Herman pointed out.
He spent the nominating season in California working on the religious vote.
After fellow Republican presidential candidate Nelson Rockefeller's scandal (his second wife, Happy, became pregnant before his first divorce was finalized) came out in the press, "I got a date with the cardinal and told him he shouldn't make a big speech at a Catholic University."
The invite was axed. Goldwater beat Rockefeller, butlost the election to Lyndon Johnson. Herman won the adoration of party insiders. In the next election, the Nebraska native stayed in the Midwest working to get Nixon elected.
After a long night of watching the returns in Nixon's hotel room, Herman and his wife went up to their own room to watch the acceptance speech on tv, rather than watch it downstairs with the president-elect.
Herman returned to Omaha, but his break wouldn't last long. He was summed to the new president's transition team, interviewing candidates for Nixon's cabinet. Herman's next assignment, Attorney General John Mitchell asked him to run the '72 Convention.
"I said, 'who wants me to do it?' and he said, 'Nixon.' I said, 'I don't think he knows me,' and he said, "don't kid yourself,'" laughed Herman.
Herman says he moved the convention from San Diego to Miami because of a scheduling conflict with the circus. The move drew concern of Mitchell.
"He asked me if I told Bob Dole, and I said no, and he said, don't you think you should, he's the chairman," recalled Herman.
Some in the party were concerned about losing the election in California. It was the only convention to ever move. Doubling up on the Democrats in Miami, Republicans moved in the day the Democrats left town.
Out of that frenzy, a friendship formed between Herman and Democratic Chairman, Bob Strauss. It's something Herman is convinced wouldn't happen today.
"I think it's tragic what's going on in the country," said Herman.
Although he's a Republican, Herman said he's disappointed with his own party's efforts to block President Obama.
"Whoever is my president, I want him to be successful. Rather than being a country after you have an election, and supporting it, why the feeling remains," Herman said in disgust.
Herman, who keeps a close watch on what's going on in Washington, talked about a time when Democrats and Republicans would reach across the aisle.
"At 5 o'clock the saying was a bottle came out. And Tip O'Neill, you'd go to his office and everyone from both sides would be there having a drink," said Herman.
What's changed? Herman says the US Supreme Court decision to allow PAC money in campaigns is costing the country.
"Most tragic decision they've ever made. It's my belief that we will destroy the very government that we talk about protecting," Herman said.
The relationships Herman formed have lasted beyond his years in politics.
"I was with George Bush when he announced he was running for president," remembered Herman.
He still sees '41 from time to time. It's been tradition for the pair to watch the Nebraska-Texas A&M game together.
"We talk family," said Herman of the meetings with the man he still calls 'Mr. President.'
Herman's family struggled through the depression. Now, at 92-years-old, he can look back and say, "Just kind of lucky to think I had that kind of a life."
A life helping men, who have helped lead our great nation.
Herman is in the midst of writing a book about his life, which will be out sometime next year.
To hear Herman's thoughts on the presidents he came to know and befriend, click on the video next to this story.
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